Scallywag

When in doubt, don't.

~ Benjamin Franklin ~

We’re With You Neil Armstrong

August 9th, 2012 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 47 secs

Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin got there 43 years ago.

Guess that says it all about my age, because Neil Armstrong and his crew are big in my memory. I recall, as a boy of 7, being sent home from school early so we could go watch Apollo 11 land on the moon. It was July 1969, and I was excited. The moon? Really? Could those three men have gone all the way up there? That journey will always be one of the biggest moments in history. But for me and everybody else who can remember it was even more. It felt like a turning point.

Today, 1969 is merely a date in history. Neil Armstrong – the first person to set foot on the moon – is 82 years old. Having just undergone heart bypass surgery, his wife Carol says he is doing fine. But age is wearing him. Even ultra fit astronauts reach frailty eventually.

For me, all the Apollo missions and the Russian space voyages filled me with wonder at what humanity can do. It felt, as I was growing up, that this was a taste of the future. Then came the Pioneer probes, Skylab, and Viking 1 and 2 missions to Mars. Around then, I started dating my wife, Ruth, when we were still in high school. Then came space station Mir, and all those forays seemed to confirm the sense of everything Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins did. Somehow, despite humanity’s differences, we were all on our way to bigger horizons.

But it didn’t work out that way, did it? At least, not yet. If not for the recent successful landing of Curiosity on Mars, the long running International Space Station, the successful orbits of Chinese taikonauts, and a collection of remote probes, the pace of exploration has dramatically slowed. Indeed, you could be forgiven for thinking the collective will to “boldly go” has almost ran out of puff.  Unlike the right stuff of those first daring astronauts, like Neil Armstrong and his colleagues, the pioneering vision seems to have lost its momentum.

So now, we are in a kind of limbo. Wanting to spread our wings wide yet conscious of our many limitations, space exploration seems a lot less intrepid as it was back then. When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin prepared to land the Eagle lunar module on the moon, it was a touch and go thing. Armstrong, as you probably know, had to take manual control when the navigation computer overloaded. With only twenty-five seconds of fuel left, they reached the surface; twenty-five seconds from death. Then, when it came time to leave, the controls for the main engine were broken, meaning there was a very real chance the two astronauts would be left to die on the moon. But thanks to Aldrin’s lateral thinking, the control was activated with a felt pen, and their takeoff and rendezvous with Collins in the command module went smoothly.

Despite the fact that the moon takeoff had a high chance of failure (President Nixon already had his, “Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin bravely gave their lives on the moon” speech), and re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere was an unbelievably hit or miss moment, they made it. And for their courageous daring we should celebrate them.

In a world where it’s easy to get cynical, people like Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, demonstrated courage beyond expectation. They showed us what it takes to step out into the unknown and dare to follow through in the most extreme situations. Back here on Earth, where we have our own challenging circumstances, I can’t help feeling that a few heroes come in handy. To remind us of the good we can do under tough conditions. So that, in a personal way, we can be brave enough to hang in there and find the best way through our hardships. And, maybe, when we truly break through, we can discover some “turning points” of our own.

So here’s to a great person, with a humble heart, and a can do attitude. We’re with you Neil Armstrong. Get better, won’t you?

Feegs

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